A young police officer called me this past Saturday morning (I did not seek permission to use actual names for this piece, so for the moment they’ll remain anonymous). Apparently, he was going down the list of contacts in my friend’s phone and I happen to be the second number on the list.
“This is officer [Young Buck]. Do you know a Mr. [Older White Male]?” he asked.
“Yes. I know [Older White Male],” I answered. “Is everything ok?”
“Well, I pulled him over and we’re on the side of the road (here in San Vicente), but I can’t seem to understand what he’s saying. Is there any way you or someone can come over and help? I think maybe he has some kind of sugar issue?”
“Yes!” I said emphatically. “He has severe issues with drops in his sugar levels where he will actually pass out, if he doesn’t induce sugar immediately. I’m only a mile away and he lives right around the corner from there…I’ll be right there,” I said.
I pulled up behind the police vehicle and found the officer standing by the driver’s side of [Older White Male’s] car trying to talk to him. And, sitting in the driver’s seat was [Older White Male].
“I don’t know what the [expletive] is going on here!? Can you just take me to my [expletive] car?” he rambled out from behind the steering wheel of his own car. “I’m just trying to get home! Just take me to my [expletive] car!”
“You are in your car, Buddy,” I answered.
Officer [Young Buck] told me, “I pulled him over because he ran the red light and was driving down the middle of the center lane.”
Over the course of the several years that I had known [Older White Male] I witnessed him pass out several times from his low sugar—literally talking one minute and a second later face first on the ground beneath him. Scary to say the least, but something our general circle of friends have become accustomed to and know that we need to shove chocolate bars and anything high in sugar into his mouth to revive him. I had heard of him becoming disoriented and, in fact, belligerent at times due to a downward spiral in his sugar levels, but Saturday was the first time I would see it firsthand.
By all indications, I would have guessed he was plastered drunk. And, let’s just say there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Saturday’s stop was a drunk driving issue—not the least of which included slurred speech (with a sailor’s mouth no less), belligerent disorientation and a wobbly gait (once I was able to talk him out of his car).
And yet somehow, the [Young Buck] Officer thought well enough to reach out to his contacts and investigate further before dragging him out of the car and tossing him in the back of his cruiser. Honestly, it takes a special kind of mannerism to field the kind of belligerence being displayed by [Older White Male] on that morning without resorting to physical tactics to remove him from the car and off the side of the road. We all know the types of sad stories that come from meathead cops not being able to keep their cool—the [Young Buck] cop in this case kept his cool and, in my humble opinion, saved a man’s life.
—[Older White Male’s] wife was working in the yard outside their house when I pulled into the driveway.
“I think your husband is having another low sugar episode,” I told her.
We helped him into his house where the wife essentially force-fed him Reese’s Peanut Butter cups and made him drink several cups of orange juice along with some other thick syrup (I assume loaded with sugar).
“I just need to get home,” he said.
“You are home, Buddy,” I responded several times over.
“Well, can I at least sit down!?”
“You are sitting down, Buddy…just keep drinking your juice,” I said.
“I don’t know what [expletive] is going on here!?”
“I know. Just eat your chocolate,” I kept saying.
So went the discussion for what amounted to somewhere between 10 to 15 minutes. And then suddenly (as if a switch went off in his head), “Jim. I’m sorry man. How did I get here?”
His wife asked him to read the clock on the wall and he said, “10 minutes to 12” which in fact was the correct time. He was back.
The alternative scenario could have been that the [Young Buck] cop assumed he was drunk, dragged him out of the car, cuffed him (presumably face down on the ground), shoved him into the back of his car and took him in for booking. I’m no medical expert, but I have doubt my friend would have passed out and likely slipped into a coma or worse crossed over to the other side on his way to the station. For emphasis, I believe the [Young Buck] cop in this case saved my friend’s life this past weekend.
Perhaps, it was due to good training, but I’d like to think that it was due to a good upbringing—an islander upbringing where our elders get the benefit of the doubt and our instinct is to help first.
Ultimately, the young man exercised his police discretion and, in this case, got it absolutely correct.
The truth is that sometimes disabilities manifest themselves in ways that take on the appearance of something else…more often than not, as something less than desirable. I don’t think anyone could have blamed this young police officer if he had arrested my friend, so on behalf of a grateful circle of friends and all of the people living with the various types of often misunderstood disabilities in our community, I thank you, young man, for choosing the less restrictive alternative. You have done yourself, your profession, the Department of Public Safety and our islands very proud.
For more on the rights and needs of people with disabilities, please contact the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc. (NMPASI) at (670) 23507273/4 [tel.] or 235-7275 [fax/tty] or on-line at www.nmpasi.org.
Jim Rayphand is the executive director of the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc.